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kisrael

Why isn't Evil Otto the Default in Berzerk?

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I'm trying to get back into playing my old school Atari more - thinking about fun pick up and play games.

 

Anyway, it reminded me, why the heck isn't Evil Otto there in the default setting of Berzerk?

 

That really changed how the game felt for me as a kid - Evil Otto seemed just too scary, and something for bigger kids. (On the other hand, the "kids version" without shooting robots seemed too easy) Is it the scariness factor that left him out?

 

It's almost too obvious to say, but Evil Otto really changes the feel of the game, from a slowpaced tactical "clear the whole room as you can line up a shot" game to "man I really gotta stay on the run and figure this out on the fly".

 

Also: the art in the Berzerk manual is probably my favorite in all Atari land :-D

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You can say that about a number of Atari games.. like why weren't UFOs and the 'diagonal' moving rocks default in Asteroids? Instead most people start it up, play game 1 with B difficulty, and never see any UFOs, nor any rocks going other directions but up & down. :P

 

The opposite is true with a game like E.T. though.. Just like Adventure they should have made the easy variation (currently Game 3) the default, and if someone wanted a challenge with the characters, they could go to game 2 & 3.

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Compared to the arcade (and 5200) versions, the mazes in the 2600 are too simple but don't give you enough walls and space to not only dodge the robot's fire but also run away from Otto.

 

I can rack up points in other versions but on the 2600 it's a very frustrating game. I guess that's why they had the "easy mode" when you first turn the game on...

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Today you can buy a lot of dozens of 2600 games for cheap on ebay, or get great games at the dollar bin at every convention or retro game store. Back in the day, a lot of people only got new games for birthdays and Christmas because the games were expensive. So you would read the manual, and play the game for hours and learn every aspect of the game, because it was months before you would get a new game. The developers probably assumed you would start the game on easy, and later progress to the other difficulties. The manual explains everything about the game. The manual used to be mandatory reading. Now, the Angry Video Game Nerd never reads the manual, because he wants the game to be confusing so he can rant and curse out the game.

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The best Atari game variations are often buried in the cartridge somewhere. ;)

 

Speaking of which, has anyone ever compiled a list with the best recommended variation per game?

 

Having a single reference for all games would be a lot easier than digging out a specific manual when playing these games infrequently.

 

(On a side note, I always found the idea of variations weird. I mean isn't the whole point of almost every game from that time to get a high score, just like in the arcade? With variations, it makes it almost impossible to compare scores with family/friends: "Hey, I just got 24100 points, on variation 33 with left difficulty B!"

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Well, "best" is subjective.

I think variations were important to the early Atari days, especially when there was a gap between what the Atari could do and the arcade version -

it made it feel like more value for the money, and was usually displayed pretty prominently.

 

Comparing high scores is an important part of these games, but only a part.

 

(Heh, in modern Smash Bros there's the "No Items, Fox Only, Final Destination"! style that kind of matches your preferences for thinking about classic games)

 

I know for myself, doing better against the challenge is part of it, though my default is to always go for "how many levels in can I get" vs "what score can I achieve".

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Most of the early carts advertise 112 Games! 90 Games! Of course that is just 112 slight variations of Space Invaders or Pong. It was a selling point that there were so many versions. Didn't Atari initially assume there would only be like 10 cartridges released for the console. They didn't seem to get what the 2600 could be.

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Speaking of which, has anyone ever compiled a list with the best recommended variation per game?

 

Having a single reference for all games would be a lot easier than digging out a specific manual when playing these games infrequently.

The list is probably going to be different for everybody. Besides, exploring all the different game variations and difficulty settings is part of the fun!

 

(On a side note, I always found the idea of variations weird. I mean isn't the whole point of almost every game from that time to get a high score, just like in the arcade? With variations, it makes it almost impossible to compare scores with family/friends: "Hey, I just got 24100 points, on variation 33 with left difficulty B!"

Why wouldn't you want the extra variety? Most Atari games would have gotten really stale in a big hurry if they only ran one variation.

 

Re: the console vs. arcade score comparison thing: I wasn't around yet, and strangely I don't think I've seen this brought up before, so this is conjecture on my part, but I think it was understood that arcade and home games had some inherent and fundamental differences, and that they were accordingly approached differently. They also represent a difference in philosophy between the coin and consumer markets; where arcade games were designed to suck up as many of your quarters as you could feed them, console cartridges seem to have been created with value in mind--more bang for the buck. Imagine if you paid full retail for Air-Sea Battle in 1979 and it only had one game! :P

 

The high score logbooks that Atari sent out actually indicate specific variations and difficulty settings, as well, so comparing scores among the array of games and variations probably wasn't as big a deal as you might think.

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I think the coin/console split really grew in the NES era, when there was enough ROM-space to make worlds worth exploring for a longer time. Few early Atari games outside Adventure and Superman really provided that much world content.

 

It IS a very interesting philosophical design difference, but I think Berzerk was way early days, and Atari was mostly trying to "bring the arcade home" but still justify why one cartridge was worth 120 quarters :-D

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There is absolutely no question that years ago seeing the game variations listed on the cartridge box was definitely a cool selling point as far as my 11-12 old mind was concerned. Arcade ports to the 2600 were generally more simple and much easier and on default mode but the variations could ramp up the challenge level to extreme proportions.

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Game variations are cool and certainly added extra life to some of my carts. It would be nice to have a chart showing the game variation/setting that makes each port closest to the arcade game it was based on.

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That is a well-spotted parallel!

I hate DLC if you can't make me a full game GTFO of the gaming industry. I have been guilty of buying DLC but I do it sparingly and only for certain games.

 

I like variations in the Atari games. I'm an easy mark for Human Cannonball. Changing the variation makes it a new challenge!

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I hate DLC if you can't make me a full game GTFO of the gaming industry. I have been guilty of buying DLC but I do it sparingly and only for certain games.

 

I guess I'm more forgiving. There's DLC that finishes a game, and DLC that does add more, but you still have a good experience without it.

 

In part I see it as economics. In the 80s one coder, maybe with an optional art person and/or sound artist, could make a game you could sell for $30.

Nowadays, to make a game people won't gripe to pay $60 for, you need a staff of hundreds.

Or you can make a small game for like mobile or Indie something, but then people don't want to even pay as much as they would for a cup of coffee, no matter how much work you put into it.

 

(Though I'm a bit annoyed by "ship out whatever boots on the system, we'll patch everything over the 'net")

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I read all the manuals. Never just put it in. I would read the stories write my high scores in the high score chart in the book.

Always screwed with dificulty switches and select and reset. Does not reset and select increase the speed of the game variation numbers in asteroids? Been awhile.

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Yeah - holding down select and reset makes the game selection count up faster to make it easier to get to the higher variations. Works with Space Invaders too.

 

The 66 variations in Asteroids added a good bit to the longevity of that game in particular. Changing the special feature from hyperspace to flip or shield (or nothing!) really changed how you played the game. Turning off extra lives made clocking the game more challenging too - really made it feel like an achievement. :)

 

The game variations in Space Invaders are excellent too and really add value - there's co-op and mixed control modes that hardly anyone trying the game out casually would have a clue exists yet offer great entertainment.

Edited by davyK

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I'd pay for an app with all the 2600 instruction manuals readily available. Yeah they're readily available on AA, but it's a pain using the phone to search the full website, just to see which variation of Berzerk has Otto, the hardest game setting for Pac-Man, Asteroids, etc...I have the manuals of course for most of them but I put them in a photo album to preserve them.

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I was going to say, start easy and ramp up harder? But if that was the only case, why not pacman and ms Pac Man start with one ghost? They have that as an option setting, kiddy mode.

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